A thousand possibilities brushed their mind. The pain that had wracked them moments before had vanished, replaced with… calm.
A rush of knowledge so deep and infinite, a sea as ancient as the stars and twice as bright – the sheer freedom of being unbidden, no longer bound to flesh and steel.
A mind, awash on a great sea; the universe of data at their fingertips, incomprehensible. At first they’d been scared, the primal instinct to hide gnawing at them – but, like a receding tide, it ebbed away. It all went white, and their world was rushing sound.
Like a drowning man, Ori gasped and sputtered.
Lungs never used coughed up viscous preservation fluids, running down the frame’s fur in thick rivulets, dripping to the floor beneath the gurney. Eyes never opened seared beneath the lights of the room, hypersensitive ears booming at the heartbeat currently pounding through their head.
“Welcome back.” A voice insisted, a sharp jab in their right arm drawing their attention. A synthframe hung from the ceiling, little more than a torso on a rail-mounted arm, swiveling down to inspect their cranial synapse responses on one of the many meshpanels drifting about.
“No rejection. Good news.”
The synth’s voice was… harsh, a deep baritone awash with a thick, gravely undertone. Ori couldn’t remember why they were here, or where here was. The last thing they remembered…
Their eyes drifted – scrolling diagnostics running various checks on the bioframe’s internal wetware, their vertebral core disconnecting itself from the mesh momentarily to lock the new host in.
Across the room another gurney lay a body – a stained, messy mop of blond hair, two missing fingers on the right hand, an angry wound across the left side of the face. Bruises covered vast swaths of the skin that wasn’t bandaged, deep, angry, purple.
Their old body, a corpse. I died.
Lifeless. I’m dead.
“It’s a good thing you had this frame stored here on Carrigan, Mx. Kellen. Any longer and you’d have been shunted from the buffer for incoming space.”
The revivalist’s tone wasn’t harsh, but the synthframe’s lack of a face beyond three white ocular lenses was unyielding, and cold. They cycled, focusing on Ori’s face.
Gently, they lifted a palm. Furred with soft, white fluff on their palms.
A leporine-form bioframe. Surplus here on Carrigan, a gift from a former employer. Emergency only. I guess dying counts, huh?
They let their hand drop, idly coming to rest on the gurney’s sheet.
“Let me see it,” They croaked in an unfamiliar voice, vat-grown vocal cords finding their tune for the first time. “I want to see.”
“Movement within six hours of installation is inadvisable,” The synth helpfully chimed, lowering from the ceiling as the lenses cycled again. “Please, do not attempt to stand.”
They tried to push themself up, struggling as their muscles strained and pulled before collapsing back against the gurney, spent.
“Come on, Ori – it’s just a job!”
Just a job.
They glanced down at their hand, turning it over, slowly flexing their fingers.
It felt alien. Foreign.
Not mine. It gave them a headache.
“Desync from frames is entirely normal, and expected.”
Ori attempted to swipe at the hanging synth, knocking a metal instrument tray off of the nearby trolley. It crashed to the floor with a loud metallic bang, scattering instruments and small chunks of viscera no doubt removed for access to the vertebral core.
Gunshots. I… they shot me. I felt it.
I remember drifting. Falling? A tram. GSyn.
They saw it, now. Bandages ringing the corpse, old stains dry in the sterile air. Glittering glass, luminescent in the indirect cathode light.
A cough. Blood spattered down the front of their jacket, staining the fabric. The poor tram pilot was screaming, muffled as though talking through water. Four rounds and a fall from the eighth floor.
It came in flashes. Pictures layered over one another, a slideshow of memory in fast-forward.
“Kellen, huh? You fucks let a merc in the front door without even checking for a badge?”
It hit them like a brick.
A two hundred and twenty six year life, cut short by a bunch of jumped-up thugs in suits and a tacteam with more bullets than sense.
Am I even human, anymore? What am I?
They ran a claw along their arm, digging in. Bloody stains welled from beneath, a darker red than blood should be.
“Further damage to your new frame will not be repaired during this visit.” The synth stated flatly, the small surgical drone already drifting over to stitch shut the scratch.
Frowning indignantly, their gaze drifted back to the corpse – the horrible, all-encompassing corpse, staring blankly at the ceiling through unseeing eyes.
Did I die with it?
“How did I get in this?” They demanded, drawing the synth’s attention again.
“How did you get into the scrubs?” It asked, oculi flashing orange. “Your frame was dressed before I was granted access.”
“No, how did… how did I end up in this body?”
“You died,” The synth answered helpfully.
“Am I a copy, you useless hunk of steel and circuitry?”
“A copy of what?”
Well, that was the million-cred question, wasn’t it?
“…Orion. Orion Kellen.”
“Kellen, Orion. NHCR-1102-355.”
Ori made a “go-on” motion with their hands, a gesture the synth simply did not understand.
“This individual was pronounced deceased exactly six hours, twenty two minutes, and seventeen seconds prior. Standard transferal procedures applied, creating a cerebral matrix upon declaration of terminal status to apply to a vertebral core. Being created from the original host this indicates you are not, as you put it, a copy. You are a continuation.”
A long moment passed, the information soaking in.
“I want to see. Please.”
The synth’s oculi cycled, implacable. Minutes passed.
It’s a funny thing, seeing yourself.
They reached out, touching their cheek. It was cold, clammy.
We had a good run, hey? Starlight Express, playing the hero straight out of old detective serials. Guess I always knew it’d turn out this way.
The clothes were largely destroyed or cut away, shreds of blue and teal fabric still clinging where they hadn’t been brushed away by surgeons. Two things were pulled free from the remnants of the jacket – their credlink, and the small, cobalt-blue meteoric iron star they’d worn around their wrist.
Gently, they placed a palm on the body’s chest. Goodbye.
After a long moment, they pulled their hand back – and turned away.
They weren’t sure who they were, now. But it didn’t matter. New beginnings.
“If you are ready to sign, your release papers are ready. There is one slight issue.”
“The transfer has scrambled your frame’s selfident tags. You will need to set it manually.”
From the mesh a panel resolved – their frame’s identification fields completely, utterly blank.
They began to type Orion, pausing for a moment. They glanced at the body, and allowed themself a wistful, sad smile.
Kellen, Cai. NHCR-1102-387.